Cybersecurity Act of 2012--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

By:  Thomas Coburn
Date: July 26, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, short memories are just that. In my opening statement in the Finance Committee on this bill, I made it very clear I opposed the pay-for in this bill. I had two amendments to offer. They were not offered because the chairman had assured me beforehand that he would object and rule them nongermane, even though they were not nongermane. As a matter of fact, we had offered what the Obama administration had already offered in terms of trade duplication--a $200 million pay-for that the administration supports.

So let's talk about what is really going on here. We are a country that is $15.8 trillion in debt. We have a process that is not open, really, to the consideration of addressing real pay-fors for a real bill that I agree needs to pass. I have no objection to the underlying policies in any of the three components in this bill, but there is a process we continue to practice which has our country bankrupt. That process is the following: We are going to spend $200 million over the next 3 years, and then we are going to take 10 years to pay for it.

We have $350 billion in waste, fraud, and duplication in the Federal Government that we have done nothing about as a Senate. Not one thing have we done to address the issues that are wasting the hard-earned money of the taxpayers of this country. So when we have a small bill and administration concurrence on something that should be eliminated, and yet we would rather not do that but just kick the can down the road, we are failing the American people.

I have a great deal of respect for the chairman of our committee, but it seems to me that my conversations with the Speaker and Mr. Cantor and Mr. Camp in the House are much different than his. As a matter of fact, if we were to divide this, they would divide theirs and pass them both back over here, and we could do the same. What I have offered is to separate out these two from the AGOA package. I am for that. I just think we ought to pay for it.

What I have offered, and I offer to do now if the chairman splits it, is to have 30 minutes on the floor to explain why I want to pay for the AGOA, then have a vote, and let it go. But we will not even do that. So not only

do we not want to address the problems, we don't even want to have a debate and an opportunity to stand up and say whether we are for cutting wasteful spending, which even the administration is for. That is what is offered.

So now we stand here, with Burma sanctions going to expire. I am going to tell you, I am not moving. I will object to any unanimous consent request that doesn't have a real pay-for for the $200 million for this bill out of real spending in the next 1 or 2 or 3 years, which is exactly what we offered to put forward in committee and what we have offered to negotiate. I am not going to be a part of kicking the can down the road again. I am not going to be a part of playing gimmicks where we ask corporations to overpay their taxes so we can get around the 1974 Budget Act and pay-go and essentially be dishonest with the American people about what we are doing.

I understand I am not the chairman of the Finance Committee, but I am a member. And I am a Member of this body. Since I had no right in committee to offer an offset because they were ruled--they were going to be ruled nongermane, which they weren't, and now, consequently, we want to ram this through on a timed basis, I am not going to agree to that happening.

So we need to start acting like grownups in terms of our debt and not kick the can down the road 10 years, and that is what we are doing. We are going to use 10 years to pay for something we are going to spend over 3, just like we did on the highway bill, just like we violated pay-go, just like we violated the budget agreement we just agreed to last August. Now we are going to continue to do the same thing.

I have the greatest respect for my chairman. He has been here a long time. He knows a lot about these issues. I agree they need to happen, but they do not need to happen on the backs of taxpayers 10 years from now. We need to pay for what we are doing now.

That is the whole point of this exercise. I want us to be able to have certainty. I want us to have the Burma sanctions continued. I want us to do the right thing. But I want us to do it in the right way, and we are not. So that is where I stand.

I would defer to the chairman for his comments.

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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, what the chairman said is this bill is paid for. I would put forward to the American public that if they went to Wendy's this afternoon and said: Give me a double cheeseburger; and, oh, by the way, over the next 10 years I am going to pay for it, most Americans would not say it is paid for.

What we are doing with this bill is taking custom user fees in the years 2021, 2020, 2019, and all the way down to pay for this bill. That is the problem. We will never solve our other problems until we get out of the mindset of saying because of the rules, we can stretch out the payment and call it paid for.

This bill isn't paid for. It is going to be paid for by the people who import things 10 years from now, not now. That is the whole point. That is why we have a $1.3 trillion deficit this year. That is why we have at least 2 to 3 million people unemployed in this country--because of our debt. So the question is, Is there a point in time when we are going to stop paying for things in the future and pay for them now? That is my objection.

I am fully open to passing this bill if somebody will just pay for it this year. If we are not going to pay for it this year, then we are not going to pass a bill by unanimous consent.

I will tell you, nobody else operates this way. Nobody rationalizes that you can pay--and the other thing, this is just $200 million. To everybody outside of Washington that is one ton of money. Here it is peanuts. To say we can't pay for something worth $200 million in a bill to do this, right now, to start the self-discipline of paying for it, it just says we are not worthy of being here if we would not do that.

So I would love to work out a solution, but there is a time and place where we have to change the direction of how we operate. For me, this is the bill that now says to me we are going to start paying for things. And if we can't pay for a $200 million pay-for in the same year, or at least the same 3 years we are going to actually spend it, then we are just not going to pass bills with my help.

I am not speaking for just Tom Coburn. The vast majority of Americans want us to pay for things by cutting wasteful spending. The fact that we are going to take custom user fees over 10 years to pay for this is ludicrous. Nobody in the rest of the economy can go out and say: Oh, by the way, I want to consume it now, but I will pay for it 10 years from now--interest free. It doesn't work that way, and we ought not to be doing it.

The chairman has my utmost respect. He has a tough job, I know that, of trying to do that. I will continue to try to work on solutions for this problem, but I am not moving from a position that we are going to pay for the things in the year in which we count them.

I yield the floor and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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